Warwick Uni didn’t just fail the victims of the Whatsapp Group but rape victims everywhere

Protests have taken place at Warwick University in response to the scandal (Photos: Ari_Tassinari/ amyjbeecham/enabasu)

It has been nine months since a story about a group Warwick students threatening to rape fellow female students first emerged.

Protests against the university have since occurred. Countless girls have come forward and expressed their disappointment at how this University has acted, and only now are we just beginning to get the answers we deserve.

My involvement started in May 2018 when, as editor-in-chief of The Tab Warwick, I received a handful of screenshots from a group chat consisting of male Warwick students. What I read disgusted me. The students had made racist and ableist comments, and threatened to rape and mutilate their closest female friends.

One of the screenshots from the group chat that was obtained by The Tab (Image: The Tab Warwick)

I felt horrified. I read the messages over and over again, in disbelief.

Yet what disgusted me most of all was that I received those screenshots because the females named felt the university’s response was inadequate. These girls who had been threatened with rape by their closest friends had bravely turned to the university, and they had been failed. As a last resort they turned to student newspapers.

Speaking out against acts of these kinds is difficult. It takes bravery and strength, especially when the perpetrators are your friends. And yet these girls did just that. They found the bravery within themselves to speak out – to not let this go.

In its response, the university was inefficient and lacked transparency. In addition, the female complainants were made to undertake ‘humiliating’ and ‘aggressive questioning’ by the investigatory panel, led by Peter Dunn, the university’s Director of Press and Media Relations.

When you fail a group of victims like this, you send a message to all victims. You tell them that their voice will not be heard and that they do not deserve justice.

And the saddest part is, these women who were failed at Warwick are part of the majority. According to research conducted by Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room, 62 per cent of female students who say they have been sexually assaulted at universities, only six per cent have reported this and only two per cent were glad that they did. This is not a case of there being room for improvement – this is a nation and campus-wide epidemic.

Some argue that this group chat was a private one. That it was never meant to be seen. When I read these messages back in May 2018 it was clear that these men had lost all sense of what was normal and acceptable.

Should these girls who were threatened with gang rape and mutilation have to learn alongside students who say that ‘she looks like a rape victim’?

They were out of touch with reality and part of a toxic conversation, perpetuating the worst of ‘lad culture.’ The privacy that they thought protected them made them lose all sense of what was moral.

I refuse the allegation that we should let this go lightly as ‘they didn’t actually rape anyone.’ It maddens me that rape has to take place in order for anything to be taken seriously. These men made threats, and for me that is enough.

The Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft posted a statement in response late last week, which included a link to some Frequently Asked Questions surrounding the incident, one of which was ‘Do you care more about males than females at Warwick?’ The fact that is a ‘frequently asked question’ at a place of education in the 21st century is appalling.

It is clear that women have lost faith in this university. What institution, that claims to promote equality, must be made to defend themselves on such a simple principle? The answer is an institution that is fundamentally failing.

Should these girls who were threatened with gang rape and mutilation have to learn alongside students who say that ‘she looks like a rape victim’?

Should Jewish students have to learn alongside students who claim to ‘love Hitler’?

Should female professors and teachers have to teach men who believe that ‘sometimes it’s fun to just go wild and rape 100 freshers’?

The students joked about mass rape (Image: The Tab Warwick)

Should they be allowed on our campus? Should any of us have to tolerate such violent and offensive behaviour?

While I commend the decision that two of the men will now not be returning to campus, the price of justice has been disappointing. It has taken outcry, national news attention and protest to get a decision that should have been instant.

The victims have been forced to relive their trauma, in front of the nation, and are still awaiting an apology.

This is not the university I love and recognise. And while it has been an incredibly sad and disappointing series of events, we have witnessed a pivotal moment on our campus.

We have seen these girls fight for what they believe in. They stood up for their rights. They have shown that they will not be silenced by anyone. They have fought against injustice on a grand scale.

It is this bravery and this solidarity that must be celebrated and encouraged at other institutions. These girls have changed the conversation and opened our eyes.

They have fought for their justice when Warwick University failed to do so. We should be proud. It is these girls that encapsulate the best of my university.

MORE: When I was raped by a fellow student I found little support. Universities must do more

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